No matter where in the world you may live, when winter rolls around it brings not only the potential for larger more powerful swell but colder water temperatures as well. So whether you are upgrading to a springsuit in typically warmer locales or squeezing into a 5/4/3mm hooded fullsuit with all of the accessories in colder regions of the world, gearing up for winter bodyboarding sessions is going to require some adjustments to the equipment you choose to use for your next session.
|Valentine's Day session, February 2007. Manasquan, New Jersey. 6-8ft south swell. Water: 36F/2C. Air: 30F/-1C. Wind: Offshore 25mph/40kph. Photo: Pat Grady|
I grew up bodyboarding in New Jersey (in the northeastern United States) and have spent nearly 25 years riding in cold water. This has always required me to maintain a quiver of boards and a variety of wetsuits specific to the seasonal weather conditions at my home breaks. These days, I live in Rio de Janeiro (Brasil). Obviously, conditions are a lot warmer here. Winter in Rio, though, still requires some adjustments to the equipment I use here...just not as extreme as back home in New Jersey. Listed below are some tips and suggestions to help with selecting wetsuits, wetsuit accessories, swimfins, and boards to help keep you geared up and ready to go for that next winter session.
SPECIAL NOTE: Please keep in mind that the "Recommended Water Temperature" for each type of wetsuit is a suggested range that may vary from company to company, as well as based on personal comfort levels. Also, keep in mind that, when purchasing new gear, sizing of product (in the case of wetsuits, wetsuit accessories, and swimfins) also varies from company to company. It is always a good idea to try on a few different sizes from several different companies, and familiarize yourself with what fits you best. If you have any questions regarding purchase of equipment and/or sizing, be sure to visit or contact your favorite bodyboarding retailer.
|Hyperflex Amp 3 Chest Zip Hooded Fullsuit available in 6/5/4mm and 5/4/3mm.|
Recommended Water Temperature: 0-4C/ 32-39F for 6/5/4mm, 5-11C/ 40-52F for 5/4/3mm
|Reeflex Mercury Front Zip 4/3mm fullsuit.|
Recommended Water Temperature: 12-14C/ 53-57F
|Dunes DS1 Front Zip 3/2mm fullsuit.|
Recommended Water Temperature: 15-17C/ 58-63F
|Dunes Ben Player Front Zip 2mm L/S springsuit.|
Recommended Water Temperature: 18-20C/ 64-68F for L/S Springsuit, 21-23C/ 69-73F for Springsuit
A good 3mm hood goes well with a 4/3mm fullsuit and comes in handy on a cold, windy winter day. When trying on a hood, be sure it fits as comfortably as possible. If your hood is too small, it will create too much pressure on your head and give you a headache. If your hood is too big, it will flush out every time you duck dive under a wave. Excessive flushing in cold water can cause "ice cream headaches" which are definitely no fun! If you are in between sizes, though, buy the smaller size because the neoprene will eventually stretch out.
A 3mm cap goes well with a 3/2mm fullsuit on chilly, windy days when you want to cover your head but a hood is just a little too much. The same suggestions apply to trying on caps as they do with hoods. Be sure to try a few on to make sure it fits properly, and to make sure the strap doesn't dig into your neck.
5mm gloves will help keep your hands warm during those winter sessions where a 5/4/3mm hooded fullsuit or a 4/3mm fullsuit is required. For the more frigid water temps that require a 6/5/4mm hooded fullsuit, you might want to invest in a pair of 7mm gloves. For the slightly warmer winter water temps, when you can get away with wearing a 3/2mm fullsuit, it's a good idea to have a pair of 3mm gloves in your accessories collection. Making sure your hands are kept as warm as possible during you winter sessions is extremely important. There is almost nothing that will kill a good winter session faster than painfully cold hands! As with the hoods and booties, be sure to try a few different pairs on for proper fit and comfort.
Bodyboarding booties, or swimfin booties, are an essential piece of equipment for winter bodyboarding. As with other winter wetsuit accessories, be sure to try on a few pairs for proper fit and comfort. If the booties are too big, they will tend to flush out too easily and will not maintain optimum warmth. If your booties are too small, they will cramp your feet as well as eventually rip apart at the seems. Avoid using surfing booties. The rubber souls on surfing booties tend to create unnecessary pressure points when wearing them with swimfins, causing rather unpleasant foot cramping.
Depending on what size foot you have and what brand of swimfins you use, you may need to purchase a pair of swimfins that is one size larger than you usually wear to compensate for the thickness of your booties. It is a good idea to try on your fins with your booties, when selecting your winter gear, so that you can make sure they fit together comfortably. If the pair of fins you normally wear feel too snug when wearing your booties, I definitely recommend purchasing a pair in the next size up. The only thing that will end your winter session faster than cold hands or feet is cramped feet!
There are a couple things to take into consideration when selecting your bodyboard for the winter. First, and most importantly, is the core material used in your board. While PP (Polypropylene) cores are great for warmer waters, they are really stiff and rigid in cold water. Consider investing in a board with an EFC (Engineered Flex Core)/3D core or the more traditional PE (Polyethylene) core. These boards will be more responsive, providing more flex and projection in cold water.
The second thing to keep in mind is the size of the board. A lot of people tend to overlook the fact that when you are geared up in your winter wetsuit and wetsuit accessories, you are carrying a lot of extra weight that you're not used to riding with. Say, for example, that you normally ride a 41" board during the summer. That board is not going to handle the same when you're wearing a 5/4/3mm hooded fullsuit (with gloves and booties) in the dead of winter. Besides switching to a more flexible core material, you may want to consider up-sizing to a board with slightly larger dimensions to compensate for the extra weight and provide extra buoyancy. In my case, I generally tend to ride a 41.5" bat tail. I will move up to a 42," and as big as a 42.5," depending on the wave conditions and what type of wetsuit I am wearing. Everybody is different, so take the time to experiment with different boards to see what works best for you.
Hopefully, you'll find some of these tips and suggestions helpful in dialing in your winter set-up. Remember, don't be afraid to ask questions, and try on a few different sizes from several different companies to find what you are most comfortable with. As with just about everything in life, there is a little "trial and error" involved but once you tune in to the equipment that really works for you, you're going to be stoked! With that said, good luck and good waves! See ya in the water...YEEEWWW!!!